DENVER – Inside every commercial brewer beats the heart of a homebrewer. The roots of many beers we love go back to beer lovers tinkering with ingredients in their basements and garages.
The biggest craft beer in the country is no exception. Samuel Adams founder Jim Koch began brewing in his kitchen. To support young brewers, each year at the Great American Beer Festival, the company selects two homebrewers to distribute their beers nationally in Sam Adams Longshot six-packs.
The winners were chosen from among 1,000 entries. They were announced at a celebration in downtown Denver Friday morning.
Florida resident Russ Brunner won for his American Stout. It’s described as a “big malty stout with notes of chocolate and coffee that carry through to a velvety finish with notes of roasted cocoa. The richness is balanced by hints of citrus and pine from the American hops that add a subtle bitterness to this deep and satisfying brew.”
Brunner has been homebrewing for three years. Asked how it would feel to have his beers in stores nationwide, he said, “I can’t even imagine. Honestly, I can’t picture it. When jim announced it, you almost saw the biggest happy face in the world.”
The other winner was Cesar Marron, of Evanston, Ill., for his Grätzer, described as a” light, Polish smoked wheat beer that packs a punch of smoky sweet flavor from the heirloom smoked malt used and spicy and herbal notes from Saaz hops.”
Said Marron, “It feels awesome, great. It feels even better to serve people my beer.”
Koch, who has been coming to the GABF for three decades, is thrilled with the craft beer explosion that breweries like Samuel Adams fostered.
“This is an explosion that’s been 30 years in the making. I was making what is now called craft beer 30 years ago,” he said.
“To me it hasn’t ever really exploded. It’s jut been constant steady growth, not just in the number of brewers, but beer education, beer culture. The average American beer drinker today understands beer with flavor and taste. That’s a huge breakthrough.”